DCS - Return K-5 to In-Person Learning
Members of the Board, Superintendent John Farrelly, Mrs. Johanna Parker, Mr. Keith Parker, and Mrs. Kelly Flora:
We write to you today as parents and teachers of k-5 students and hope that our concerns will be discussed and taken into account when the time comes to make a decision about sending our kids back to in-person learning. While we are confident our extreme satisfaction with, and support of, Dare County Schools is well established, we want to make it clear that this letter comes from a place of sincere concern for the future and well-being of our children and families.
We understand the situation we are dealing with. We understand COVID is not going anywhere. We understand you have a duty to keep the children of this county as safe and as healthy as possible. We also understand that the decision to end face-to-face learning was not made lightly. And most importantly, we understand that you acknowledge certain classes/groups of students for whom remote learning is far more detrimental. We are asking you today to acknowledge k-5 children, as a class, are inherently disadvantaged under the virtual learning structure, far more so than their older counterparts, for the reasons outlined below. We are asking you to read our concerns and ideas with empathy, compassion, and an open mind. What we are ultimately asking today, is that you allow our k-5 students to return to in-person learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
From technical difficulties to more practical obstacles, k-5 students are not able to adequately function in a virtual structure without near-constant monitoring. K-3 especially require assistance reading instructions, logging into meetings... and doing it on time, completing and uploading assignments, to name only a few. These kids are just too young to be expected to handle scheduling and the technical aspects of virtual learning. Consequentially, these duties fall on parents, guardians, and hired caregivers.
Please consider the unique situation our k-5 families find themselves in. While most of us have juggled and scraped and ran ourselves ragged, we are at the end of our ropes. Our kids are stressed and frustrated with virtual learning, and so are we. We know our teachers are working tirelessly and going above and beyond for our kids. None of this is their fault - nor is it ours. Our kids simply require more due to their age. We are hopeful you will recognize this and consider returning k-5 to in-person learning.
We understand there are guidelines and health regulations in play. We ask you to consider the following:
Social distancing is absolutely possible in our schools and our teachers have already shown their willingness to get creative to keep our children as safe as possible. In our short couple of weeks back, our kids had class outside as much as possible, and wore masks all day. There were temperature checks and social distancing was enforced. We have every confidence we can make any accommodation you may require should you approve our request. We have lots of volunteers ready to help with screenings, lunchtime, recess, etc. Anything we can do to make this possible.
We would also like to draw attention to the quarantine guidelines currently in place. After review of the state protocols and guidelines regarding school reopening procedures, it is apparent Dare County has adopted a most extreme quarantine protocol. We are asking that the current guidelines be reevaluated, taking into account the success other districts have had with in-person learning. Rather than quarantining entire classrooms in response to one positive case, and as long as masks were worn, those schools simply quarantined the positive case and any direct contacts that occurred when masks were not worn. From the information available to us both personally and professionally, it is clear very few, if any, of the hundreds quarantined due to Dare County Schools protocol ever tested positive for COVID. This alone should justify a reevaluation of the current guidelines in place.
Research has shown that small children are highly unlikely to contract COVID in school settings. We see evidence of this by simply looking locally to the daycares and learning centers on the beach. With masks and social distancing in place, there have been no outbreaks. The Dare County EC program has been up and running in person, and there have been no outbreaks. Many of our extended families live in districts seeing large numbers of positive cases, yet their children are in school and thriving. On a national level, NY YMCAs have been running programs for children of essential workers. Even amid the mass state-wide outbreak, the children’s programs have had no outbreaks. These programs and guidelines show mass quarantine policies are not warranted, and as we’ve seen locally, actually do more harm than good. These real world examples and models are available for review when considering how to put our students and families in the best position for success.
We are happy to provide more information and real world examples of quarantine policies that have been effective. There are wonderful medical providers in our community who see and treat COVID daily, and they have offered their expertise and advice to any parent, teacher, administrator, and/or board member who requests it. Our doctors and nurses on the front line are willing to donate their time to further the well-being of our children and community. Thus far they have not been truly consulted about the COVID policies, which causes us more concern considering they are our front line. They are dealing with the effects of this virus both professionally and personally. They are who we believe should have more input and should be given more consideration when creating the guidelines and protocols for our schools.
We need help, our students desperately need help, and our teachers seem to be in agreement that in-person learning is essential to the foundation of early childhood education. We are not asking for a mandate to return to in-person learning by any means. We firmly believe in the right to choose what is best for ourselves and our families, which is why we fully support families having the option to keep their children in the virtual learning structure. For some, the virtual option is a success and their children are thriving, and that is amazing to see; however, this is not the reality for the majority of us living this daily.
We respectfully and humbly ask for your consideration and approval of our request. With updated quarantine guidelines, mandatory masks, and social distancing measures, we are more than confident in our district’s ability to return k-5 to in-person learning successfully. If there is any other information we can provide, please let us know. If you would like to speak with us personally or as a group, we are more than willing.
Thank you for your time.